(Photo courtesy of: UMass Lowell) “Being a transfer student can create its own set of social issues.”
The social lives of transfer students appear to differ from those who have been attending UMass Lowell from the beginning of their college education. Transfer students come to UMass Lowell from many schools, including those listed in the MassTransfer program.
Regardless of which college they came from, transferring from one college to another presents its own challenges. Hannah Peterson, a senior and transfer student at UMass Lowell, says, “I think it’s a mix of being a commuter student and a transfer student, so not only am I only spending two years here while other people are spending four, but I’m also, you know, spending most of my time at home.” A common issue for some transfer students could also present itself as an opportunity at the same time. “That makes it difficult,” said Peterson, “but I do think it has its advantages because I found that now, when I do stay on campus just to do work, it kind of helps separate my school life and home life and I feel like I’m getting more out of my college experience because I’m actually staying on the campus instead of just going home as soon as class is over.” A separation of home and school life can be beneficial for managing tasks, but alternatively not beneficial for social relationships. Another transfer student, Shanon Almonte, a sophomore at UMass Lowell, said, “I wouldn’t say my experience is worse, but I have definitely not been social with anybody. I talk to people in class and that is about it.” A challenge for a lot of transfer students is forming meaningful relationships that persist outside of the classroom. A lack of interaction with fellow classmates off campus is a regular occurrence, but no less unpleasant. “I think that at this stage, people already have their friend groups at school. I’m just a transfer student. Sometimes, I just feel like I wouldn’t fit in,” said Almonte. Maintaining social relationships on and off campus can seem intimidating to all students, not just transfers.
There are benefits to being a transfer student at UMass Lowell that range from economic frugality to broadening one’s experience. The MassTransfer program offers an agreement to a wide variety of state schools for college students to spend less on their education by attending their first two years at a community college. Students who maintain their GPA and fulfill their credits for the MassTransfer program can accessibly transfer to a state school. Peterson said, “My previous college was Middlesex Community College, so because I was already attending a school in Lowell, I’ll say that it felt like it was a very easy switch to make.” The advantages of previously attending a nearby school aren’t always available to students, as there are many colleges involved in the program. “I’m sure other transfers from four-year universities had it more difficult than I did. But because I was just at a two-year institution, it felt like the next step up. I’ve been happy so far,” said Peterson.
Other than socializing, working with or studying with peers, transfer students communicate mostly with their professors. Having a good working relationship with professors can benefit students’ experience on campus, as well as generating confidence in the direction of the class. Almonte said, “I mostly communicate with my professors. I still haven’t made a connection that has evolved outside of school.” Professors offer valuable resources to students and can be useful to communicate with through email off-campus. Opportunities can arise from good working relationships in school. Peterson said, “Funnily enough, before the pandemic, I had a sociology professor, and I can’t remember her name now, but I really loved her passion for actual journalism, and it made me consider journalism. I remember her saying ‘If you’re interested in it, please come back and talk to me,’ so that’s stuck in my mind.”
Differences and challenges that may arise for transfer students as opposed to those who have always attended UMass Lowell can impact their social lives. Despite these obstacles, transfer students at UMass Lowell have been able to form lasting relationships on and off campus. Not just students, but everyone, can benefit from maintaining social lives as well as their school lives.